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Title: Zantedeschia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Aroideae, Calla Lily, Alpha Sigma Rho, Calla (disambiguation), Sigma Pi Alpha
Collection: Araceae Genera, Aroideae, Flowers, Garden Plants of Southern Africa, Poisonous Plants
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Zantedeschia elliottiana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Araceae
Subfamily: Aroideae
Tribe: Zantedeschieae
Genus: Zantedeschia[1]
Syst. Veg. 3: 756, 765 (1826)[2]
Type species
Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng[3]

Houttinia Neck.
Colocasia Link
Richardia Kunth
Otosma Raf.
Arodes Heist. ex Kuntze
Pseudohomalomena A.D.Hawkes[4]

Zantedeschia [5] is a genus of eight species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The genus has been introduced on all continents except Antarctica. Common names include arum lily for Z. aethiopica, calla, and calla lily for Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmannii although it is neither a true lily (Liliaceae), nor an Arum or a Calla (related genera in Araceae). The colourful flowers and leaves are highly valued, and both species and cultivars are widely used as ornamental plants.


  • Description 1
  • Taxonomy 2
    • Species 2.1
    • Etymology 2.2
  • Distribution and habitat 3
    • Introduction 3.1
    • Habitat 3.2
  • Cultivation 4
    • Hardy forms (arum lilies) 4.1
    • Tender forms (calla lilies) 4.2
    • Seasonal grouping 4.3
  • Toxicity 5
  • Uses 6
  • Culture 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Zantedeschia species are rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plants with some species (Zantedeschia aethiopica) growing to 1.2m tall, while Zantedeschia rehmannii does not exceed 60 cm in height, growing in clumps or clusters.[6][7]
Roots: Contractile, emerging from the top of the tubers in Group II.[6]
Stem: The underground portion is variously described as a thick underground stem (rhizomes or tubers).[8][9][10] While the literature is confusing as to the exact terminology, generally the Zantedeschia aethiopica-Zantedeschia odorata group (Group I) is referred to as having rhizomes, and the remaining species tubers.[6] The rhizomes are fleshy and branched.[11]

Hastate leaf shape with maculation
Lanceolate leaf shape with undulate form

Leaves: Petioles are long, spongy in nature, sheathed at the base and of varying length from 15 cm (Zantedeschia rehmannii) to 1.5 m (Zantedeschia aethiopica) in length. The lamina is simple, elongated and coriaceous with a variety of shapes, including triangular, oval (ovate) with or without a point (elliptic), heart (cordate), spear (hastate), lance (lanceolate), oblong, or circular (orbicular). 15–60 cm in length, 5–25 cm in width. The leaves are dark green in colour and feather-veined (pinnate), and may be erect or spreading with undulate margins. Some species exhibit transparent flecking (maculation), and are therefore referred to as maculate, while others are immaculate. (see Table I, also New Zealand Calla Council Leaf Shape Images[12])[6][7][8] The leaves contain hydathodes that result in guttation.[7][11]

Table I: Descriptive features of Zantedeschia species foliage[6]
Species Leaf shape Leaf size[8] Maculation
Z. aethiopica Ovate-cordate or hastate 15–45×10–25 cm[8] rare
Z. odorata Ovate to cordate none
Z. albomaculata
subsp. albomaculata
Oblong-hastate 20–50×6–8 cm[8] rare
Z. albomaculata
subsp. macrocarpa
Triangular-hastate 18–20×5–7 cm[8] sparse
Z. valida Ovate to cordate to ovate-orbicular-cordate none
Z. elliottiana Orbicular-ovate 22×18 cm[8] present
Z. jucunda Triangular-hastate dense
Z. pentlandii Oblong-elliptic to oblong-lanceolate seldom
Z. rehmannii Lanceolate 20–30×3 cm[8] none
Zantedeschia aethiopica inflorescence, showing white spathe surrounding central yellow spadix

Inflorescence: Takes the form of a solitary pseudanthium (false flower), with a showy white or yellow spathe (a specialised petal like bract) shaped like a funnel with a yellow, central, finger-like spadix, which carries the true flowers. Both spathe and spadix are carried on or above the leaves on the fleshy flower stem. The shape of the spathe whose overlapping margins form the tubes varies from trumpet shaped (Z. pentlandii) to a tight tube with a tapering tip (Z. rehmannii). The spathe is initially green, but as it unfolds becomes coloured. This may be white as in Z. aethiopica, but other species include yellow and pink. Cultivars have a wide variety of other spathe colours including orange and purple. Inside the spathe, the throat may be darkly coloured.[6][13] The spathe acts to attract pollinators.
Flowers: Zantedeschia is monoecious in which separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers (imperfect or unisexual flowers) are carried on the spadix. The flowers are small and non-blooming with an absent perianth. The male flowers contain two to three stamens fused to form a synandrium, and the female flowers have a single compound pistil with three fused carpels and three locules.[6][8][11]

Table II: Descriptive features of Zantedeschia species inflorescences[6]
Species Spathe colour Flowering period Throat darkened
Z. aethiopica white-pink late winter - late spring No
Z. odorata white late winter - late spring No
Z. albomaculata
subsp. albomaculata
white-pale yellow-coral pink late winter Yes
Z. albomaculata
subsp. macrocarpa
yellow summer Yes
Z. valida cream summer Yes
Z. elliottiana gold-yellow summer Yes
Z. jucunda gold-yellow summer Yes
Z. pentlandii lemon-chrome yellow summer Yes
Z. rehmannii white-pink-maroon summer No

Fruit: Beaked orange or red berries.[11]



Zantedeschia albomaculata, from L'Illustration Horticole v.7 (1860), by Charles Antoine Lemaire (1801-1871), and Ambroise Verschaffelt (1825-1886)

Eight species are currently recognized:[2][14]

  1. Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng. – giant white arum lily or common arum lily - South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho
  2. Zantedeschia albomaculata (Hook.) Baill. – spotted arum lily - widespread from South Africa north to Nigeria and Tanzania
  3. Zantedeschia elliottiana (W.Watson) Engl. – yellow or golden arum lily - Mpumalanga Province of South Africa
  4. Zantedeschia jucunda Letty - Leolo Mountains of northern South Africa
  5. Zantedeschia odorata P.L.Perry - Western Cape Province
  6. Zantedeschia pentlandii (R.Whyte ex W.Watson) Wittm. - Mpumalanga Province of South Africa
  7. Zantedeschia rehmannii Engl. – pink arum lily - South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique
  8. Zantedeschia valida (Letty) Y.Singh - KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa


The name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi (1773–1846) by the German botanist Kurt Sprengel (1766–1833).

Distribution and habitat

All species are endemic to central and southern Africa, from Nigeria to Tanzania and South Africa. Z. aethiopica grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly and can survive periods of minor frosts. Z. aethiopica is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome-offsets; it is naturalised and regarded as a weed throughout much of the world. Z. odorata is a rare species, resembling Z. aethiopica, but deciduous and smelling like freesia, endemic to a few localities in South Africa. Z. albomaculata is a widespread and variable species, growing from South Africa north to Kenya, varying in shades of white to cream and pink to orange-shades. Z. jucunda and Z. pentlandii are rare species with large yellow showy flowers. Z. rehmannii is a pink-flowered species with sword shaped leaves. Z. elliotiana is known from horticultural sources only and is probably of hybrid origin.


Zantedeschia was introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century as Z. aethiopica[7] and is now widely naturalised[2][15] including Europe,[16] North America, Central America, South America, Oceania and Australasia. In many places it is considered a dangerous invasive species, displacing native vegetation.[17] In the South-West of Western Australia, Z. aethiopica was introduced for horticulture, but has become a widespread and conspicuous weed of watercourses, heath, and wetter pastures. Zantedeschia is represented in North America primarily as cultivars used as ornamental house plants.[11]


Z. aethiopica grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly and can survive periods of minor frosts. Z. aethiopica is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome-offsets.


All Zantedeschia produce large, showy flowers spathes and are often grown both as ornamental plants and for cut flowers. Zantedeschia are relatively hardy plants, but some are more winter-hardy than others. In this regard there may be considered two groups, a hardy outdoor group with large white flowers (arum lilies) and less hardy group with white-spotted leaves and flowers in many colours (calla lilies), such as yellow, orange, pink and purple.[18]

Hardy forms (arum lilies)

These include Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia pentlandii and their cultivars. Zantedeschia aethiopica and some of its relatives can survive at minimum winter temperatures below -23 °C (USDA Zone 6) and many others can be grown in even warmer areas where all the ground does not freeze (USDA Zone 7).[18] Z. pentlandii hybrids include 'Millenium Gold'.[19]

Tender forms (calla lilies)

The more tender specimens are mainly cultivars (hybrids) of Zantedeschia elliotiana and Zantedeschia rehmannii (referred to as elliotiana or rehmannii cultivars or hybrids, or as e.g. Z. x rehmanii), but also Zantedeschia albomaculata and Zantedeschia jucunda.. These less hardy forms can only survive winter temperatures to -12 °C (Zones 8). This plant must be grown as tender bulbs or houseplants in cooler areas. Species and hybrids between Z. elliotiana, Z. jucunda, Z. pentlandii and Z. rehmannii appear to have an optimum temperature for growth near 25 °C, with growth being suppressed once daily average temperatures persist at 28 °C.[18][20]

Zantedeschia x rehmanii 'Neon Amour'
Zantedeschia ellotiana x maculata 'Lemon Drop'

Z. rehmannii hybrids include 'Amethyst'.,[21] 'Crystal Blush'.[22] and 'Neon Amour',[23] while an example of a Z. elliotiana x Z. rehmannii hybrid would be 'Blaze'.[24] Z. elliotiana x Z. maculata hybrids include 'Lemon Drop'.[25] Z. elliotiana hybrids include 'Solar Flare'.[26]

Seasonal grouping

Other classifications consider two groups based on their seasonal habits. Zantedeschia aethiopica and Zantedeschia odorata form one group (Group I) typified by retaining their leaves in winter, and flowering from late winter to late spring, while the remaining species (Group II) are in leaf from spring to late autumn shedding their leaves in winter (deciduous) and flower during the summer. Zantedeschia aethiopica may retain its leaves all year round (evergreen), otherwise from autumn to late summer, while Zantedeschia odorata retains its leaves from late winter to late spring. The two groups also vary according to the arrangement of the male and female organs. In the first group they are arranged together in the lower part of the spadix, whereas in the latter they are separate, with the female at the base. The Z. aethiopica group also have a fruit that turns soft and orange, whereas the other retains a firm green fruit.[6]


Zantedeschia shares the general properties of the Araceae family in causing contact irritation. Zantedeschia species are also poisonous due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the form of raphides. All parts of the plant are poisonous, typically producing local irritation or a burning sensation in the mouth and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea.[27][28] However leaves are sometimes cooked and eaten.[11][29]


Zantedeschia bridal bouquet with mix flowers

Extensive commercial production of Zantedeschia for cut flowers and/or planting material occurs in California, Colombia, New Zealand and Kenya.[20] Plant breeders in California and New Zealand continue to produce an extensive range of new hybrid cultivars. The so-called white calla is derived from Z. aethiopica. All varieties with flowers with shades of yellow, orange, red, purple are mainly derived from Z. albomaculata, Z. pentlandii, Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmanni.


Zantedeschia has often been used in paintings, and is visible in many of

  • Pacific Callas
  • Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN): Zantedeschia
  • University of Connecticut: Zantedeschia aethiopica
  • University of Connecticut: Zantedeschia elliottiana
  • Snijder, R.C. 2004. Genetics of Erwinia resistance in Zantedeschia: impact of plastome-genome incompatibility. PhD thesis Wageningen University. ISBN 90-5808-975-4 - p. 112.

External links

  1. ^ Stevens, Peter F. (2001 onwards). "Angiosperm Phylogeny Website". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Spreng.Zantedeschia in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  3. ^ "Index Nominum Genericorum". Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Govaerts, Rafael; Frodin, David G. (2002). "World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae)". The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i K.A. Funnell (2006) [1994]. "The genus Zantedeschia. Botanical Classification and Morphology". New Zealand Calla Council. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Aubrey, Alice (2001). "Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng.".  
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Adolf Engler, ed. (1915). "58. Zantedeschia". Das Pflanzenreich: regni vegetablilis conspectus (in Latina). 64 IV.  
  9. ^ Govaerts, Rafael; Frodin, David G. (2002). "World Checklist and Bibliography of Araceae (and Acoraceae)". The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 
  10. ^ Podbielkowski, Zbigniew (1989). "Kallijka etiopska". Słownik roślin użytkowych (in Polski). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Rolnicze i Leśne. p. 138.  
  11. ^ a b c d e f Burrows, George E.; Ronald J. Tyrl (2012). "Zantedeschia". Toxic Plants of North America (2 ed.). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 141–142.  
  12. ^ New Zealand Calla Council Leaf Shape Images: (a) lanceolate, (b) ovate, (c) triangular, (d) hastate. Heavy maculation is also present in (c) and (d) and medium maculation in (b).
  13. ^ Botanicas Annuals & Perennils, Random House, Sydney, 2005, ISBN 0-09-183809-6 pp. 938
  14. ^ "African flowering plants database". Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques Ville de Genève. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  15. ^ National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. "Germplasm Resources Information Network – (GRIN)". USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "Biological Collection Access Service for Europe". Freie Universität Berlin. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Comité français de l'UICN, IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (2008). "Global Invasive Species Database". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c ZantedeschiaRoyal Horticultural Society:
  19. ^ Pacific Callas: Millenium Gold
  20. ^ a b Funnell, K.A. 1993. Zantedeschia, p.683-739. In: A.A. De Hertogh & M. Le Nard (eds.) The physiology of flower 'bulbs'. Elsevier Scientific Publishers, Amsterdam
  21. ^ Pacific Callas: Amethyst
  22. ^ Pacific Callas: Crystal Blush
  23. ^ Pacific Callas: Neon Amour
  24. ^ Pacific Callas: Blaze
  25. ^ Pacific Callas: Lemon Drop
  26. ^ Pacific Callas: Solar Flare
  27. ^ Slaughter RJ, Beasley DM, Lambie BS, Wilkins GT, Schep LJ (December 2012). "Poisonous plants in New Zealand: a review of those that are most commonly enquired about to the National Poisons Centre". The New Zealand Medical Journal 125 (1367): 87–118.  
  28. ^ Miles, Jackie (2002-09-12). "Arum or calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica )". South Coast Weeds. Eurobodalla Shire Council. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  29. ^ Plants for a Future: Zantedeschia aethiopica - (L.)Spreng.
  30. ^ "Calla Lily Meaning & Cala Lily Flower Symbols in the Language of Flowers." Calla Lily Meaning & Cala Lily Flower Symbols in the Language of Flowers. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2014.



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